The second step to a successful ghost hunt is performing proper research on the site. You should always start by first talking to the owner/s of the property and writing down and/or recording a thorough report on any incidents that have happened on the property. Be sure to record the type of events and the location of any events that transpired.
If the owner includes others as a witness to an event, be sure to gather what information you can on them as well and if possible, interview and record their knowledge of the events as well. Also be sure to ask the owner/s of any known renovations done on the site due to a fact that renovations have been known to start unknown activity on some properties. Map out the locations of renovations and events as a reference of places to watch during the investigation.
When interviewing witnesses to an event, be sure to ask questions on Who, What, Where, When, Why, How, and How Many. Other areas of interest during your interview with the property owner/s is asking if any items (such as old letters, photographs, news paper clippings, documents, carvings on the walls and furniture,) exist of the previous tenants (if plausible). These items can be used to give names or views of previous tenants, documentation of events that may have transpired on the location or to the previous tenets, or at least give a year to begin research on the timeline of the property.
TIP: Be sure to handle evidence with care and maybe even with gloves. Old papers, documents, and photographs along with antiques or very fragile and easily damaged and may be damaged from the oils on your skin.
TIP: Old photographs can be used to compare the changes done to the property since past times.
If you have little or no information to begin a timeline of the properties history, you can use an architectural book to discern the difference in different styles used in the houses structure such as doors, ceiling, windows, roofs, molding, nails, hinges, paints colors and paint layers to give an estimate on when the house was built which could also be used as a estimated date to begin the timeline on the properties history.
TIP: If furniture is left over from the previous tenants, it is sometimes possible to use the furniture's maker's marks to narrow down the year the furniture is made and that year could be used as a starting point to begin research. Be warned though that this method is not always fool proof since much furniture can be bought used or inherited making it sometimes even older then the building or location in question.
TIP: Dates and initials can sometimes be obtained from storage buildings, workshops, and sheds located on the property. These can sometimes be found in corners written in the cement or carved or written on beams. Be sure to check in the basement/craw space and/or attics as well for such things along with other papers or objects that could be tucked away in between wall joist and other hard to see locations. Be sure to get the owners permission to look into places that might be considered intrusive though.
TIP: Ask the owner/s of the property of any carvings in the walls or tree's such as hearts with initials or initials with "was here" next to it, exist on the property and be sure to log them in your report. These initials can help narrow down names of people who may have some significance to the events that may have transpired there or a witness who has some knowledge about the properties past.
If a witness has claimed to have seen a full or partial body apparition, be sure to write down the estimated age, sex, race of the apparition along with details of the colors and types of clothing the apparition could be wearing. Include hair and eye color and if you are any person in your team have any artistic talent, draw a sketch of the apparition that could be used as evidence to validate any information or photographs that you may find further on in the investigation. Another practical method of identifying people is to use cut outs of different style of faces that could be used as a visual guide to the looks of the apparition. Be sure to add different styles of clothing and hats as well and date the clothing to the different periods of time when the style was in use.
Neighbors living near the location of the events in question can also be asked of any knowledge they know of past events or people on the property. But if the owner asks that any information gained on the investigation not be made publicly, you should be very discreet not to give out your reasons for asking these questions and to not give out any unnecessary information.
Take great care when infringing on the past lives of others due to some memories may be painful to others and they may not wish to remember them. Do not push to gather information and respect the privacy and wishes of others if they do not wish to talk to you.
Once you have gained as much information as possible from the site itself, you can begin using the information gathered to continue research other possibilities from witnesses, the internet, the library, newspapers, city records, county archives, state preservation trusts, and historical societies. Any buildings built after the 1900's may contain permits that could be used to date the construction or any major alterations done to the building.
TIP: Ask if there are any fee's related to copying in public records offices and libraries. The fee's may not be posted and can add up to a large sum if you are making a lot of copies.
The third step to a successful ghost hunt is SAFETY! I cannot stress safety enough. There is many dangers involved in a ghost hunt that does not involve a ghost such as trip hazards, holes, objects that can impale someone, and stairs that one can easily fall down. For these reasons you should never go on a ghost hunt alone.
Your team and you should fully prepare for the worst case scenario before ever leaving for a hunt. Plan for falls, scrapes, cuts and even a broken bone. Know your team's medical problems and plan accordingly for them. If a member has a history of heart problems, keep a low dose aspirin on hand for a heart attack. If a member is a diabetic, be sure to keep insulin in reach. If a member has an allergy, be sure to keep their medication and/or antihistamine within easy access. Always keep partners with these people and be sure the partner knows what to get, what to do, and who to call in case of an emergency.
TIP: Team members can voluntarily give out details of their health but it is not wise and maybe not even legal to force them to tell you. Do not discriminate against those with health issues, instead plan only what is necessary for their safety and treat them equally as any other member of the group.
A well-stocked first aid kit should be kept in easy access for all team members and every team member should know where the kit is located. The first aid kit should be checked regularly to insure it is stocked and no item(s) has expired. Expired items should be replaced before the hunt.
A well-stocked first aid kit should include adhesive bandages, absorbent dressing, adhesive cloth tape, sterile gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone ointment, instant cold compress, antiseptic wipes, non-latex gloves, scissors, tweezers, aspirin, antihistamine for allergic reactions, and a first aid instruction manual. Optional items that could be considered for anticipated needs are space blankets, magnifying glass, saline wound wash, poison ivy/oak preventive, poison ivy/oak treatment, and splint.
Many house built before the 1990's could contain Asbestos as an insulation and fire retardant. Asbestos is usually white and could be found in old water pipe insulation wrap, boilers, heating and air ducts, concrete, flooring and ceiling materials. When Asbestos deteriorates, the fibers could become unbound and enter the air as dust. This dust when breathed in enters the lungs and becomes lodge in the lungs causing scarring and inflammation. Heavy exposure to asbestos could also cause, asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. If a building being entered is heavily deteriorated, it may be necessary to use an appropriate respirator while in the building.
TIP: If it is determined that a respirator should be used, be sure that each team member is trained in its use, why it should be used, and not to remove the respirator until they have exited to a safe distance from the building.
If your team is going to break into groups, a two way radio should be used by each group and at least one member of the group should have access to a cell phone in case of requiring emergency assistance. Radios, along with other equipment such as flashlights, camera equipment, recording equipment and cell phones should be checked for proper operation and battery fully charged. Spare batteries should be kept for each device
TIP: Be sure to bring cell phone chargers and charging devices for equipment on long and/or out of town hunts.
TIP: In case of flashlight failure in the field, a glow stick can easily be carried as a lightweight easy to carry backup.
In some instances, it may be necessary to assign jobs and checklist to insure that all equipment is loaded and returned after the hunt. Each group should be giving any necessary permission slips, maps and briefed with necessary information, address and directions before departure.
TIP: Carpooling into one vehicle helps insure that all members arrive at location and on time.
Your team and you should always arrive early during daylight hours. Leave plenty of time for introductions with property owners if not on public property, for inspections of the property and buildings, and for setting up equipment. The team as a whole should walk the property and buildings to familiarize there selves with the area and to seek out hazards such as holes, trip hazards, broken or weak steps, weak floors, exposed rebar, broken glass and collapsed roofs or floors. Items that can safely be moved for safety should be and items that cannot should be marked off in a way that can easily be seen in the dark. Any building with a heavy lean, collapsed and/or rotted flooring and/or roofs or labeled condemned should be considered too dangerous for entry and no member of the team should enter for any reason.
Once the inspection of the property has been completed, the team can begin setting up and assigning equipment. One final inspection should be taken to insure all equipment is working properly before splitting off into groups. Be sure to be courteous by not shining flashlights at each other's faces, talking in a calm quiet voice, not yelling unless it's an emergency and only assisting others with unassigned projects when asked. If you wish to take a picture of someone in the group with flash on, be sure to ask before doing so. And under no circumstance that is not an emergency should anyone run. Good Hunting.
TIP: Unexperienced members have a tendency to panic or scare more easily. These members should be assigned with a calmer more experienced member who can help ease their fears and keep them from panicking until they become more familiar and calmer with the hunt.
After much hard work, you and your team finally made it to the hunt, but now is not the time to get lazy. Be sure to follow all the safety rules and be safe. Do not yell, curse, smoke, drink alcoholic beverages or play roughly while on the hunt. Do not destroy or remove any items, leave it as you arrived for the next person. There is no need to take any mementos or any reasons to litter. And the only place that is acceptable to use the restroom is the restroom. If you are in a gravesite, do not walk on graves, sit, lean or use a headstones as a table. And do not deface anything, even if it has already been defaced.
Assume that there are ghost and spirits and treat them as you would a living being with kindness and respect. Invite the spirits to you and verbally give them permission to use your equipment if it is their will but never demand it. Be respectful of who and where you take photos of. Ask permission to use flash if it could interfere with others.
Do not become so enthralled with your equipment that you lose focus of your surroundings. Keep an eye on hazards as well as for wild animals, or suspicious people. Do not let any person wonder too far from the group for these reasons. If something does not feel or seem right, leave the area immediately as a group. If you still do not feel safe, you may contact the local authorities to assist you from the area. If you are threatened by an animal or a stranger, and have no other way to avoid a conflict, use a self-protection item such as mace or a stun gun as a last resort only.
Keep an eye on the time and be sure to be cleaned up and out before the doors or gates close. These are not the places that you want to be locked into. Be mindful of local authorities, residents, and workers. If you are asked to leave, leave without fuss. And do not enter into a place that the local authorities and/or medical personnel could not get to you easily in case of an emergency.
TIP: If you feel you may need assistance or that you may be called into the local authorities for trespassing by others, you may contact the local authorities before the hunt to let them know your location, time you will be there, the members and what you will be doing during the hunt to help keep problems to a minimum.
And finally, know when the hunt is over. Do not over exert yourself or others to where the drive back is a fight to stay awake. If it is a long drive, drive as many together as possible and drive as a caravan so that every car can keep an eye on the other. Plan for stops and for times to pull over for a stretch and a brisk walk to help drivers wake up and/or switch drivers as needed. Keep caffeine and snacks easily at hand to help keep the drivers awake. If it finally comes down to it and the driver can no longer keep their eyes open, pull into a safe location such as a rest stop or a well-lit parking lot in a busy location for a good nap or find a hotel for the night.
TIP: If you take a nap in your car, be sure to lock the doors.